Huge sea creature’s skeleton was buried on NC coast. It’s now getting a second life

A giant skeleton has been pulled from the sand along North Carolina’s coast, and it’s one of those rare cases in which scientists knew exactly what they dug up.

That’s because they put it there.

The skeleton is what remains of a 900-pound pygmy sperm whale that was carefully buried after it washed up on the Outer Banks in 2021, according to the N.C. State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology.

A necropsy (animal autopsy) was performed soon after, but the cause of death hasn’t been revealed. No signs of injury were seen at the time, McClatchy News reported.

The norm is for dead whales to be quickly buried near where they washed ashore, due to the dangers of their decomposing carcasses exploding from gas buildup.

However, a different plan was devised in this case — one that is giving the whale a second life in the name of science.

After the necropsy, the carcass was taken to an undisclosed location and placed in a “protected shallow sandy grave to remove the soft tissues,” the center reports.

On Feb. 10 — 27 months after the funeral — the bones that remained were exhumed and carted to labs.

“In the coming months, the bones will undergo detergent and hydrogen peroxide soaks, air-drying, then painting with diluted bookbinding glue to preserve the skeleton for study (and) reference, and possibly an education display,” the center says.

A timeline for completing the work has not been given.

Pygmy sperm whales are native to the Mid-Atlantic and average 700 to 1,000 pounds, according to NOAA Fisheries.

They typically live up to 23 years, but are susceptible to fishing gear entanglement and boat strikes like many other whale species, experts say.

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